AURELIUS | Scipio Center man Cody Rossbach was driving in the Aurelius area on Monday when he noticed the smoke.
At first, Rossbach believed it was smoke from a chimney, but said he decided to investigate further into the Experimental Road residence after thinking the fumes looked a little suspicious.
What Rossbach saw was the beginning of a fully-involved structure fire.
Firefighters from multiple departments rushed to 5837 Experimental Road to respond to the fire at around 2:20 p.m.
Flames fully engulfed the second floor of the Aurelius home and caused severe damage to the first floor of the residence. Crews managed to get the fire under control at around 3 p.m. despite significantly heavy winds.
According to Throop Fire Chief Patrick Burns, the Aurelius Fire Department was set as main command, but also responding were emergency crews and departments from Union Springs, Fleming, Owasco, Throop, Cayuga and Cayuga County Emergency Management. The Aurelius fire chief was not available for comment on the scene.
Burns said investigators would determine a cause of the fire soon after it was under control.
"The second story was on fire itself when we arrived," he said. "Multiple departments responded and relatively quickly extinguished the bulk of the flames."
Niel Rivenburgh, from Cayuga County Emergency Management, said the winds pushed the fire from the back of the house toward the front.
Fire response teams were also affected as the wind, Rivenburgh said, made the streams from the fire hoses weaker.
Furthermore, crews were forced to prioritize keeping a large fuel tank, located just feet away from the property, cool to avoid further damage.
"There's always a threat, but one of the first points that were put on with water was cooling that tank," Rivenburgh said. "Cooling that tank takes that threat down because it's a liquid in there and it's only dangerous when it gets to a boiling point."
Rossbach said he called 911 from an adjacent residence owned by Joe and Kathy Lomascolo. The three made their way to the home to see if there was anybody inside.
"When I first pulled in, all I saw was smoke coming out of the roof vents," Rossbach said. "When we went over to investigate to see if anybody was home, two of the windows blew out."
Kathy Lomascolo said they banged and pounded on the windows of the residence, but nobody responded. The three eventually came upon a dog in a back room off the house's garage. The dog, Kathy Lomascolo said, was too scared to leave.
Rossbach said Joe Lomascolo broke one of the room's sliding glass windows and the three called to the dog, but the dog refused to come out. Kathy Lomascolo said the three had to leave due to the smoke and flames.
"It just got really bad," she said. "We were concerned with the building and the flames."
Burns confirmed there was nobody inside the house during the fire, but could not confirm the status of the dog.
Aurelius Fire Chief Brian Hultz did confirm that the dog did indeed die in the fire. One Owasco firefighter was injured, but from injuries not related to firefighting, Hultz said.
Investigators worked from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 12:30 a.m. Wednesday on finding a cause of the fire. The investigation continued this morning, Hultz said; a cause has yet to be determined.
According to real property records, the 1,400-square-foot home was built in 1890. Bonnie L. Ford is listed as the owner of the two-story, single family home. The homeowner declined to comment.
Joe Lomascolo said the house was rented out to a couple who have a daughter, but they were not home at the time of the incident.
Staff reporter Samantha House contributed to this report.